On Native Plants

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

For about 15 years or so we have been hearing requests for native plants. The word native can mean a lot of different things. For instance is it native to North America, or is it an Indiana native? One time I heard a guy say “They are all native somewhere”. Seldom do plants native ranges mimic or respect state lines?

Often times people have an agenda when they requests natives. They want plants that are going to adapt and do well easily and they do not want to introduce a plant into their immediate environment that will be detrimental. That being said there are quite a few non- natives that can meet that criteria.

We have always grown a large variety of native pants. Many of them even Indiana natives such as Cladrastis kentukeya also known as Yellow Wood. This is a great tree. When I grew this a few years back this plant did not miss a beat. I remember the branching being somewhat open yet thicker than a Maple similar to that of the Hardy Rubber Tree, or Eucommia, which is not native. Yellow Wood has been added back into our collection of plants we grow.

Eucommia is a great example of a plant that is not native yet adapts well to the grounds on the nursery. There are a lot of native purists out there and the world needs those people. I however have always enjoyed growing whatever looks good and intrigues me. Just don’t forget that just because something is not native does not mean that it cannot do well here. Your shoes are from China why not have a Japanese tree and a Korean bush and flowers from around the world?

Another native tree we use to grow and starting to grow again is the Kentucky Coffee Tree. When they are young they are generally a stick, literally. However as the tree grows and branches out it becomes a very nice specimen in a shorter time than you might expect. Our trial plant in the garden is probably 20 years or so old and has done great over the years. There are some in front or by the Indiana Purdue campus library in Fort Wayne from what I hear.

Other Native trees that we grow and have in stock right now would be Red Oak, White Oak, Swamp White Oak, Shingle Oak, Red Maple, Sugar Maple, Snakebark Maple, Eastern White Pine, White Spruce.

Oaks are generally what we call species trees, there are not many named varieties.

Maples on the other hand have lots of different varieties within the species. For instance

we like growing cultivars or varieties of Maples because you get more predictable results in body size and fall color. A cultivar is a selection someone has made of a plant they either bred or found in nature.

The Red Maples we like to grow are Burgundy Belle, Brandywine, and Sun Valley. We prefer these varieties because they are seedless and do not drop helicopter or whirligig seeds all over the yard and in the gutters of our houses. These plants also have awesome fall color and stay a little smaller than a species plant or another cultivar might get.

After visiting the Trowbridge and Needham gardens last Spring and saw all the native woodland flowers growing in their wooded lots we are going to try and grow a couple different varieties of Trillium, Bloodroot, and a few other natives. One that has my curiosity is something called a Rattlesnake Orchid. This should be cool. I never met anyone who claimed to have a Rattlesnake Orchid in the garden. How did this one fly under the radar for so long?

Calycanthus floridus otherwise known as Sweetshrub is a native that we have grown on and off for years. Its a larger shrub growing 6’ or more feet tall. This makes a great shrub for blooming before the Hydrangeas begin their show. Flowers are 1.5” or so across and resemble a small burgundy magnolia.

In future blogs I will be mentioning more native natives we are either growing or planning to grow. Thanks for reading and stay tuned to Shawn Speaks

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» Kevin from Warsaw